Citi self invest review 2.5-star brokerage rating

Citi Brokerage Account Review, Self Invest Cost, & Stock Trading Fees.



Overview of Citi Brokerage Accounts


Although Citi is mostly famous for its banking services, the global financial conglomerate also offers investments services, including for US-based clients. Could Citi’s brokerage arm deliver a better trading experience than the broker you’re using now? This review has an answer.


Account Types


Citi Investing Account Rating

Citi offers 4 main account programs today: Self Invest, Wealth Builder, Personal Wealth Management, and Legacy.

Self Invest is the company’s new budget service for self-directed investors. Legacy is the older and more expensive self-directed program, although it is still available.

Wealth Builder is Citi’s robo program, and Personal Wealth Management is the old-school managed account service with a one-on-one relationship with a licensed human investment advisor.

Within these programs, Citi offers joint, individual, 529 plans, Coverdell accounts, IRA’s, and 403(b) accounts. Not all investment products and account types are available with all programs. For example, the new Self Invest service can only be opened as an individual account.


Account Opening Process


Citi Brokerage Account Rating

Self Invest and Wealth Builder accounts can easily be opened online through the Citi website or mobile app. It took us just a few minutes to get through a Self Invest application, although Citi does require a few hours at minimum to approve an account. A Citi checking or savings account is required to apply.

For Legacy accounts, Citi only accepts brokerage applications over the phone. There is no online application, an immediate downside. After we submitted our application over the phone, we were sent electronic documents to sign, which of course had to be sent back. The whole process took almost two weeks to finally get our account open and ready for trading.


Investing Choices


Citi Investments Rating

Self-directed Legacy accounts get the largest selection of investment vehicles at Citi. These include:

  • Bonds
  • Equities
  • Funds (ETF’s, closed-end, and mutual)
  • Option contracts

The stock category unfortunately does not include any foreign stocks. It does include over-the-counter instruments but excludes cannabis securities.

The list of securities available through Citi’s traditional managed service is not published, but typically includes everything except option contracts.

Citi’s new low-cost Self Invest service provides trading in stocks, ETF’s, and mutual funds. Wealth Builder trades low-cost ETF’s only.

Missing are cryptocurrencies, precious metals, futures contracts, and forex.


Citi Options Trading


Banking Features


Citi Banking Rating

One might think that Citi, being Citi, would offer some really great cash management tools. But surprisingly, a Citi brokerage account does not come with any such tools at all.

A Citibank account can be connected to an investment account, and this will reduce brokerage fees in some cases. But the pricing schedules of the company’s checking and savings accounts aren’t overly spectacular, and in fact, the checking accounts are not very competitive compared to other bank accounts available today.


Customer Service


Citi Brokerage Customer Rating

Self Invest, Legacy, and Wealth Builder customers have access to a customer service department that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. During our testing of the department, we haven’t always found it useful, and sometimes we have experienced long hold times.

On the broker’s Legacy website (located at investments.citi.com and discussed here shortly), there is no chat widget, either in human or AI format. The Citi website for Self Invest and robo clients (located at citi.com) does have an automated chat feature, although during our testing of it we didn’t find it very effective.

For in-person human service, Citi has no branch locations other than for traditional managed account customers.


Legacy Website


Citi Brokerage Website Rating

Not only does the Legacy website have no chat service, there aren’t many self-help features, either. Account documents can be downloaded in pdf format. That’s about it.

For actual trading, there is a search bar in the upper-right corner of the screen. Type in a company name or ticker symbol, and you’ll get a small chart with trading data like bid and ask figures.


Citibank Trading Account Review


To actually submit an order, you need to pull up Citi’s trade ticket. This can be accomplished by clicking on the Transact tab, located in the main menu. Citi provides just 4 order types (market, limit, stop, and stop limit). There are two qualifiers (all or none and fill or kill) and two duration options (day and GTC).

Options and mutual funds have discrete tickets, which are represented by tabs. Mutual funds can be purchased in either dollars or shares, and there are various choices for dividends and capital gains.


Citi Mutual Funds Investing


Charts on the Citi website can be displayed up to 10 years. They cannot be expanded the full width of the computer screen, a major disappointment. There are, however, a few tools, including comparisons, a handful of technical indicators, and four graph styles.

During our research on ETF’s during the afternoon on a market day, we searched for BKSE, the BNY Mellon US Small Cap Core Equity ETF. Citi’s website showed $0.00 for the day’s price change and high and low numbers. But according to Morningstar, this fund had positive numbers in all three categories.


Legacy Mobile App


Citi Brokerage App Rating

Citi’s lackluster website continues over on its mobile app. This software is rented out from NetXInvestor™. Although Citi does have its own mobile app, the software isn’t available for Legacy account customers.

The NetXInvestor app has the same interface as the Citi Legacy website and uses the same order ticket. The charting software, however, is trimmed down substantially. The maximum time frame, for example, is just a year, and there are no tools this time.


Citi Investing App


Self Invest and Wealth Builder Website


Citi Self Invest Rating

Over at Citi.com we found the platform for Self Invest and robo accounts. Once again, the software is very simple with no advanced tools.


Citi Self Invest Website


Charts, for example, only have one plot format (line), and there are no tools at all. A graph cannot be displayed full screen.

The broker’s order ticket is the same one the Legacy site uses. The watchlist is independent of the one on the Legacy site.


Citi Mobile App


Citi Self Invest App Rating

Wealth Builder and Self Invest customers don’t use the NetXInvestor app. Instead, they use the regular Citi app. On this platform, we once again found very basic tools. Charts are very simple, and we get the same order ticket.


Citi Self Invest App


During our testing of the Citi mobile app, we found it slow to load pages at times. There are some good banking tools on it though, including a card control hub and bank promotions.


Other Trading Software


Citi Trading Rating

Citi does not have a browser platform or desktop program, so obviously this broker-dealer wasn’t built with active traders in mind. It also doesn’t have a smartwatch app.


Citibank Charting Review


Legacy Fees and Commissions


Citi Investing Fees Rating

Although Citi hasn’t offered much thus far, we still need to ask the $64 million question: how much does the company’s services cost? For many brokerage firms nowadays, the answer would be very little. But for Citi, the answer is quite a lot.

Citi starts at $12.95 for ETF and stock trades, a very steep charge by today’s standards. This commission applies to clients who have no other Citi accounts, such as a checking or savings account. For clients with some type of Citibank account, the commission drops by $6, although the banking unit of Citi levies hefty fees on its checking and savings accounts.

Well-heeled clients (Private Client, Citigold, and Citi Priority) get $0 commissions for online trades (emphasizing online here) for ETF’s.

For stocks, the brokerage house charges Citi Priority customers $4.95. Citigold clients have to pay $2.95. Citi customers who qualify for Private Client status get stock trades for free.

All of these numbers assume the stock price is above $5. Citi has no mercy below $5. All customers must call in to place these penny stock transactions, and the commission is a very severe $65.

For options, there is a base charge on every trade. It is the same fee mentioned above for stocks, with the lone exception being a $2.95 charge for Private Client customers. Per-contract fees are the same for everyone (75¢).

And these fees are just for trades. The brokerage arm of Citi assesses a $100 minimum balance fee and a $75 yearly fee. Both of these can be avoided by maintaining $25,000 in assets (for the minimum balance charge) and $50,000 (for the annual charge).


Legacy Margin Borrowing


Citi Brokerage Margin Rating

Although Citi’s pricing schedule is quite exorbitant, its margin rates are a little more reasonable. Here’s the tiered schedule:

Debit Balance Margin Interest Rates
above $5,000,000 1.25%
$1,000,000 - $4,999,999.99 3.25%
$500,000 - $999,999.99 4.00%
$100,000 - $499,999.99 4.75%
$75,000 - $99,999.99 5.75%
$50,000 - $74,999.99 6.50%
$25,000 - $49,999.99 7.00%
$10,000 - $24,999.99 7.25%
$0 - $9,999.99 7.75%

We have seen in the software sections that Citi does not cater to experienced traders. Nevertheless, day trading is possible with 4-to-1 leverage. However, the broker’s undeveloped platforms do not display any margin or shorting details on an entered ticker symbol.


Pricing for Self Invest, Personal Wealth Management, and Wealth Builder Accounts


Citi Self Invest Cost Rating

Self Invest customers pay $0 for stock, ETF, and mutual fund transactions. Even better, there is no minimum deposit requirement to get started, and there’s no on-going minimum, either.

Wealth Builder clients pay a very low 0.25% per year for the company’s digital management. Citigold, Citi Priority, and Private Client customers get one robo account at 0.00%. There is a minimum deposit of $1,000.

In Citi’s traditional managed service, the exact fee and minimum depend on a variety of factors. In any case, you will get a personal human investment advisor and a comprehensive financial plan.

Margin borrowing is not available inside a Self Invest or Wealth Builder account.


Citi ETF Investing


Research and Education on the Legacy Website


Citi Brokerage Research Rating

If Citi’s Legacy pricing schedule and software don’t scare you away and you decide to stay and invest on your own, you will find research tools on the website. During our investigation, we found the Research tab in the top menu to be a good place to begin. Here, we found an economic calendar with events that can be selected by date or by event (dividends, splits, etc.). News articles are shown from Reuters and MT Newswires. Heat maps show price movements for various sectors, and the results can be changed by adjusting the time frames.

Besides general market news, Citi’s Legacy website has screeners for stocks, exchange-traded funds, and mutual funds. During our examination of these tools, we found them effective and easy to use. Besides do-it-yourself screening, Citi offers pre-defined screens, such as equity funds focusing on growth and high dividend yield stocks.

Security profiles on the website have a decent amount of information on them. Stock profiles, for example, display ratings from CFRA. Some stocks also have a Consensus Report in pdf format from The ResearchTeam. This valuable resource shows trade recommendations from multiple analysts.

Insider trading details can be valuable, and these are shown for equities. Option chains have a discrete tab on stock profiles as well, although these are available only for calls and puts. There are no spreads of any kind, and it’s not possible to build multi-leg trades.

Citi pulls stock data from SEC filings and displays this information in easy-to-read quarterly and annual formats, with bar charts showing trends.

ETF and mutual fund profiles, unfortunately, have far less data on them. There are ratings from Lipper, but not from Morningstar.


Research and Education for Self Invest Clients


Citi Brokerage Research Rating

The Self Invest site has very little on it. During our research, we found stock profiles with trade data, market news (from Reuters), and that’s about it. There are no screeners at all, so good luck finding mutual funds on the platform. There are some market news articles courtesy of Citi. Some of these link to videos.

The Citi mobile app has brief self-guided courses on a variety of topics, like mutual funds and estate planning. The day’s top movers are shown, and unfortunately, that’s about it. Asset profiles are bare bones with very little on them.


Miscellaneous Services


Citi Investments Rating

Initial Public Offerings: Self Invest and Wealth Builder clients do not have access to IPO’s. However, IPO’s are available to Legacy customers over the phone.

Fractional Shares: Stocks and ETF’s can only be traded in whole shares at Citi.

Recurring Mutual Fund Purchases: Citi brokerage customers can sign up (over the phone, not online) for automatic mutual fund investing.

DRIP Availability: Citi offers automatic dividend reinvesting for stocks and ETF’s. As with periodic mutual fund purchases, customers have to call in to sign up for this. There is no online enrollment.

Extended Hours Trading: Orders for securities only execute during market hours. Citi’s software does permit orders to be submitted at any time, but orders won’t execute until the market opens.

Individual Retirement Accounts: Citi does well here with SIMPLE, SEP, Beneficiary, Roth, and Traditional accounts.


Comparison


Citi Brokerage Comparison Rating

Citi’s portfolio management services look pretty well when compared to what else is out there. Some popular firms like Robinhood and Interactive Brokers don’t offer any type of investment advice at all. And others, like Merrill Edge, charge more.

For self-directed trading, Citi has much work to do. Its commission schedule is not competitive at all. Most brokerage houses today charge $0 for stock and ETF trades regardless of account balance.

TradeStation has a browser platform that outperforms its website, while TD Ameritrade has a very good desktop program. And E*Trade has a much better mobile app than Citi. None of these platforms have any fees or minimums.

Firstrade customers get to use advanced options software for multi-leg strategies, while Citi customers are stuck with calls and puts on a very basic website.

Citi’s customer service and banking tools lag far behind what Charles Schwab brings to the table. And Fidelity has much better research and educational materials.

On the flip side, Citi is one of the few brokerage firms today that offer 529, 403(b), and 401(k) accounts.


Recommendations


Beginning Investors: Although Citi’s software is fairly easy to use, it simply doesn’t have the educational materials that novices need to manage their own investments. We endorse TD Ameritrade, who has a large learning library on its website.

Small Accounts: Citi’s pricing schedule obviously caters to large investors. Small traders should head to Webull, where they will find no commissions and no account minimums.

IRA’s: While Citi does have a good selection of retirement accounts, it also has a disappointing $95 closeout fee. We suggest Schwab, who has no such fee.

Mutual Funds: Although Citi has more than 15,000 mutual funds, every one of them has a load. The broker has no transaction fee, though. It’s a decent pick, although Firstrade has over 10,000 funds with no transaction fee and no load. Firstrade also has better fund tools on its website.

ETF and Stock Trading: As already mentioned, Citi’s trading software is very elementary. Plus, most customers won’t get $0 commissions. We propose Webull, who has a desktop platform and zero commissions.

Retirement Savers and Long-Term Investors: Citi is definitely a good choice for investors who have $1 million or more in assets. But most people simply won’t have this amount. For most investors, we defend TD Ameritrade, who has financial planning, and target-date mutual funds with little to no minimum requirements.


Citi Brokerage Verdict


Citi would be a good choice for investors with deep pockets who want a professional to manage their money. For everyone else, including all self-directed traders, there are much better brokerage firms out there.


About the Author
Chad Morris is a financial writer with more than 20 years experience as both an English teacher and an avid trader. When he isn’t writing expert content for Brokerage-Review.com, Chad can usually be found managing his portfolio or building a new home computer.
Updated on 1/12/2022.